Stien Bekaert’s fragile found footage collages

The work of artist Stien Bekaert owes just as much to photography, and the practice of found imagery more specifically, than it does to age-old printmaking techniques. Here, and with just a day before her exhibition “As we speak” closes in Ghent, we ask the KASK graduate about first intentions, artistic expressions and giving existing images new significations.

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What were your original ideas and intentions at the start of working on this new series?

I interact with my images by searching for a language in and behind photographs and the collages I make. I try to take the position of an interpreter and focuse on a hidden sign, a language,.. Here, gestures express what lies beneath the surface. I literally zoom into fragments, change them and bring them within a new context. My reinterpretations reveal a dialogue between the viewer and me.

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What would you say was its starting point?

Hands. Hands and their gestures are what have intrigued me for a long time. For me this work is only the beginning of a grander project. More will follow soon.

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Is there something very specific you’re hoping the series will express?

Not really. I work on my own imagery, my own language of images and techniques. My goal is to be able to keep on expressing myself with what I create. The viewer does not have to interpret literally what I try to say, on the contrary. I try to bring an open story. But I would love that people recognize my imagery and see the evolving skills beneath.

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Can you talk to us about your approach in general?

As a visual artist I communicate througt an assembly of mixed media. The choice for the collage technique where I mix found footage with self-made images and photographs, makes me zoom into fragments, change them and bring them within a new context. By editing the images digitally I get rid of the layers of a classic collage. However sometimes I use them. It is a fascinating concept; decomposing an image. The origin of the original image is completely lost in a new signification. With the combination of etching, manual and high tech processes have become evenly matched.

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How would you say this series fits it with your wider body of work? 

For me it is an evolution in how I manage to tell my stories, a sequel on previous works, where the narrative elements in time have become invisible. This is reflected in how I manage to control and grow in my skills of printmaking.

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Can you talk to us about how you see your own work? How would you describe it?

I see my work as collages, brought out there in several different visual languages. And however the narritive isn’t always visible, it is still present. I like to focus on the distinction between truth and memory, my truth and memory. I want try to create a visual universe in between. I think this phrase says it all: “I think it is all a matter of love. The more you love a memory the stronger and stranger it becomes” _Vladimir Nabokov

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What is your preferred medium for exhibiting your work? Book? Solo show? Group exhibition?

An exhibition, solo or group, naturally where the artists match or encourage a conversation. As long as I can bring my story out there loud and clear.

Who would you say was instrumental in shaping your work?

My studio mentors who guided me through the years of developing as an artist and as a printmaker ( Vigdis De Cauter). Whitout them I wouldn’t have the tools to create my visual world. Also my big grand inspirations and of course fellow friend artists. Too many to name them all. There is Zaza Bertrand who made the pictures here, where I had the oppurtunity to work with on a duo expo in December. We created a “Dreamlands” interaction of both our worlds.

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What were your first introductions to visual arts?

My father has always been occupied with drawing, painting and printmaking. He has refined skills and masters the techniques well, especially his strong and controlled drawing hand I admire. So I picked up the love for arts ever since I was a little kid. I got quite one of the family at the (SABK, The Municipal) Academy of Fine Arts, Zottegem.

What did you study, and what are your current occupations? 
I got a master in graphic design & illustration at KASK, The Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Ghent and a professional bachelor in the fine arts, printmaking. That last one, to be more specific: non-toxic printmaking, I keep on exploring ever since I got in touch with the world of printmaking. In one year I can say I got my master degree in printmaking, an extra course I started to take at (SABK, The Municipal) Academy of Fine Arts, Ghent after I graduated.
Printmaking is something you have to get by and examine every day, so many different techniques to explore. I have to maintain my known skills but I also try to evolve as much as possible. At the moment that is my main occupation. Working freelance as an illustator/visual artist, translating words into my own world of collages. And I try to develop as much as possible as an artist. I work on a daily basis in my own studio.

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What are you up to in the months to come?

Well as I just said, I’m exploring the world of non-toxic printmaking – etching that is. I got all wrapped up in the photopolymer technique, the combination of collage making and etching. I have some exciting new plans with this technique of photogravure. Some of which can be seen in a group show that I have coming up: TumultInGent#3, 2015, a one day artfestival all around Ghent City, 200 artists on 30 locations, March 25. And then there’s also the group show Extra Murros 2015 that will be held in the Zebrastraat April 2,3 &4.

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“As we speak”
Frederic Hooft, Ghent
Saturday 7th March, from 13h00 to 19h00. 
Gouvernementstraat 20A, 9000